News from NZ Police
Six people have been arrested, and search warrants or other activities undertaken at over 25 locations in the North and South Islands, in a major joint enforcement agency operation. The arrests were made in Auckland, Port Waikato and Picton.
Over 60 staff were involved in the operation. led by the Serious Fraud Office with support from the New Zealand Police, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand, the Commerce Commission, New Zealand Customs, and Inland Revenue.
The joint operation, named Operation Edit, targeted an advertising invoice scam allegedly operated by the group. It is alleged that the group sold advertising in magazines that were either never printed, or the number of magazines that were printed and circulated was grossly exaggerated. The magazines were generally titled in a way that suggested worthwhile causes in subjects such as road safety, parenting or drug addiction. It is alleged that the scam has generated up to $1.6 million since 2008.
The five-month investigation followed initial coverage by TV3’s ‘Campbell Live’, and involved covert investigation, detailed analysis of banking records and numerous victim interviews. While more than one of the agencies involved had been aware of the group’s activities for some time, the joint agency approach enabled a detailed and multi-faceted investigation to be completed in a relatively short space of time.
Simon McArley, acting SFO chief executive, said this was an excellent example of government agencies working together to prevent crime. “The agencies were able to each contribute specialist skills and achieve a result that none working alone would have been able to. High volume/low value fraud is particularly difficult to address effectively, and this is a good example of agencies bringing together their skills from within their existing resources to address this.”
Five accused have been charged with multiple fraud offences and with participating in an organised criminal group. A sixth accused has been charged with participating in an organised criminal group.
“Invoicing scams cost New Zealand businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and small businesses and charities are often the target” said Mr McArley. “While the dollar amount of alleged offending is not huge, taking action in relation to high volume/low value fraud is important. Overall there can be a significant impact on the economy.”
“By tackling this problem we build the business community’s confidence in the market and enhance legitimate economic activity”, said Mr McArley.
The prosecution for Operation Edit will be undertaken by the SFO.